It was a rarity to see Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fight at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden on December 15. His opponent came as an even greater surprise in the form of England’s Rocky Fielding, a man whose first name was very apt on the night. The only way that Fielding would pull off a win would have been in the movies, however, given the gulf in talent between himself and the Mexican.

Having fought two superb yet controversial bouts against Gennady Golovkin in 2017 and 2018, Canelo solidified himself as the number 1 fighter in the middleweight division. The last of those two bouts was a win for the 28-year-old and saw him unify the division in the process. Following two of the toughest tests he has faced in the ring, many argued that Canelo’s decision to fight Fielding for the super middleweight title was kind of justifiable.

Now with an impressive record of 54-51-1-2, the flame-haired wrecking ball will set his sights on a stronger opponent in 2019. Well, that is the theory, anyway. True fight fans will want to see Canelo pitted against one of the stronger men in the middleweight division, such as Golovkin for a third time, Danny Jacobs, Billy Joe Saunders, or Jermall Charlo.

Of course, Canelo could opt for another fight in the super middleweight division, too. There are certainly a few fighters at 168 pounds that could match up nicely with the Mexican, with Britain’s Callum Smith, fellow-countryman Gilberto Ramirez, or David Benavidez being the pick of the bunch. An all-Mexican Cinco de Mayo would be appealing to some, granted, but not everyone.

Canelo’s Year So Far

Alvarez signed the most lucrative sports contract in history this year with his $365 million deal with DAZN. The deal will see the boxing icon fight another 10 times over the course of five years, given that the first bout of the contract was satisfied against Fielding. Of course, DAZN will be looking for bigger fights than Alvarez’s Madison Square Garden fixture, the first fight contested outside of the West Coast in 10 years.

Canelo is the new face of the broadcaster’s boxing business, who has taken over from the legendary HBO. The latter put on its final show in 2018 and could simply not compete with the mega-rich company owned by the UK’s Perform Group. While DAZN has the money to throw around, they will surely demand more from the Mexican than what we saw on December 15. For boxing fans, this does make things exciting.

Fielding was never going to be the most competitive opponent that Canelo could have faced. The entire bout was in his favor from early on and his destruction of the Brit’s body by way of thunderous left hooks saw him hit the canvas four times. It took just three rounds before Fielding was done and Alvarez looked – at least to the uninitiated – like a monstrous knockout artist. Good business on DAZN’s part? You could argue that the matchup was not exactly arranged to be competitive but for other purposes.

This certainly looked as though it was a treat for Canelo fans. Those in attendance seemed content enough to see Fielding fed to their lion, embracing the destructive nature of the win as though it mattered. Except, this was not Golovkin, Jacobs, or Billy Joe Saunders that had been sacrificed, but a fighter in Fielding that was competing at British and European level not long ago.

Despite fighting at super middleweight, Canelo was clear that he would return to middleweight after the fight. This was one was a gift for his fans and not the type of fight that many diehards would have gone out of their way to watch. That being said, business is business and the way DAZN and Canelo wanted it was how they got it. Another fight of the same ilk in 2019 is not going to be accepted as easily, however.

Canelo’s Profile in Boxing

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been a fan favorite for quite some time. A fighter offered the biggest deal in sports history is hardly going to be anything other than commercially viable, but he certainly has a record that puts him among the best of his era. The other thing that Alvarez has on his side is relative youth, considering he is just 28-years-old. Beloved in his home country of Mexico and around the world, there is arguably no bigger name in boxing.

Canelo came to the wider boxing fanbase when he took on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013. While still green, he was expected to present “Money” with a difficult test. Although he was soundly beaten, Alvarez’s profile shot up massively. However, since that bout, Canelo’s status as Golden Boy’s cash cow has seen him accused of ducking fights and selecting weaker opponents to grow his stock.

Since losing to Mayweather, Canelo has fought Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Gennady Golovkin (2), and Rocky Fielding. Of those fights, he has won every single bout with the exception of the first Golovkin matchup that ended in a draw. There are some big names in there, but admittedly, others that are blatant mismatches.

Perhaps the most controversial occurrences of Canelo’s career all involve Golovkin, however. The Mexican was frequently accused of dodging the Kazakh knockout artist, even going as far as to relinquish his WBC middleweight title in 2016 in order to avoid the fight. Instead, Canelo fought Smith and Chavez, waiting until the following September to take on Golovkin in a fight that many believed should have ended in a win for his opponent.

What to Expect?

Canelo has had some big fights in his career, whatever way you want to look at it. Some have been gambles (Mayweather), although even a loss was a good result in the long term against boxing’s former pound-for-pound number 1. He has beaten the tough and durable Miguel Cotto, the former great Shane Mosley (even if he was over the hill), and has the two Golovkin fights as a win and a draw on his record.

His wins over Lara and Trout also go down as big fights. Considering that he is still in his twenties, Canelo has a lot of history to back up the sentiment that he is a big-fight boxer. With the DAZN deal, you can expect that things will not change in that regard. In modern-day boxing, the business side of things often rules.

With such a vast sum of money given to Canelo, however, there will be expectations that he puts on big shows and takes on the best in the majority of the fights he is contracted to engage in. At the same time, he is required to fight around twice per year, and fans have to believe that at least one in every three fights will be against the absolute best there is in whatever division he chooses to operate in.

Given that Canelo has world title wins in three weight classes, there are plenty of opportunities to pit him against top caliber boxers. While 2018 saw a vast improvement in the poor matchups of the preceding couple of years, for the most part, boxing fans will want to see things improve even further. Canelo’s deal gives us hope that we will get those big fights on a consistent basis from the world’s most high-profile pugilist.

The Next Opponent for Canelo

The stars appeared to be aligning for a middleweight clash between Canelo and the hard-hitting Canadian, David Lemieux, on May 4 in Las Vegas. The former champion, Lemieux, is not the most exciting opponent for Canelo and would go into the fight as a significant underdog against the Mexican. That being said, the bout would have sold well given that it would have fallen on Cinco De Mayo weekend.

In fact, you could probably put an accountant with a couple of amateur bouts under his belt in there on this date and it would do well. The reason being is that Alvarez puts butts on seats and sells pay-per-views, regardless of his opponents, but especially around Mexico’s favorite holiday. You only have to look at the grossly outmatched Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for proof.

Lemieux, like the two aforementioned fighters, would have been seen as a relatively easy night for Canelo. On one hand, no Mexican wants to see their international representative lose while Cinco De Mayo celebrations are going on, but on the other, the fight itself would not be one for the purists. Lemieux would not have exactly been a pushover, but it would not have been Canelo vs. Golovkin 3.

Lemieux – who was soundly beaten by Golovkin and Billy Joe Saunders – labored to a win over the relatively unknown Karim Achour in 2018 before knocking out the entertaining but outmatched “Spike” O’Sullivan in September. The last win, especially, would have justified Golden Boy drafting in the 29-year-old to be fed to their lion. Lemieux was set to fight on the undercard of the Canelo vs. Fielding bout but was pulled from the fight due to complications with his weight cut. Again.

So, How About Canelo vs. Lemieux at Super Middleweight?

It seems highly likely that Canelo’s next bout will be on May 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. I believe that Lemieux will be his opponent – but at super middleweight. The Canadian has a track record of missing weight or simply having complications with weight cuts that lead to cancellations of bouts. As such, he is not exactly the most reliable fighter that Golden Boy could choose for Canelo.

That being said, he needs to forget any idea of fighting at 160-pounds again. If the right deal is offered to Lemieux – and there is a stand-in opponent there to replace him if he fails to make weight – Golden Boy could be tempted to give him the bout. It might seem like a long shot, but it certainly makes sense. As previously mentioned, Canelo did say he would drop back down to middleweight in his next fight, but if Lemieux is the man they want, it will happen, somehow.

Prior to his failure to make weight on December 15, Lemieux would have been the favorite to fight Alvarez next. You have to consider that the extra eight pounds will give him a little bit of a buffer, however, and even if he does weigh in a few pounds above that, he might still get the shot without the chance to win the title. Which, let’s be honest, he has no chance of doing against Canelo anyway.

The Fights Boxing Fans Want for Canelo

Lemieux is not the matchup that the majority of fight fans want for Canelo. You can’t always get what you want, however, and no one of more accustomed to this adage than boxing enthusiasts. That said, the hope is that the DAZN deal will provide Canelo with the financial cushion to go out and take on the best of the best, and the push from the broadcaster to engage in the most interesting fights possible.

The Golovkin Trilogy

Right now, the biggest matchup for Canelo is the Golovkin trilogy. There are many fans who believe that Golovkin won at least one of those fights and was essentially robbed by the judges in Las Vegas on both occasions. The firm and undeniable facts are that the record books tell a different story and Canelo does not need to fight the aging Kazakh if he doesn’t want to.

It is unclear if a third fight between the two was part of the DAZN deal, as these things do not tend to be disclosed or outed in the public domain. Given the history between both men and the solid pay-per-view numbers, you would expect that the broadcaster would have insisted on the bout happening. If so, this may be a fight that we will see towards the end of next year.

Golovkin is currently in the process of negotiating a broadcast deal of his own. Until this happens, there is no viable way of seeing a trilogy fight going down before the latter stages of 2019. Unless, of course, he signs a deal with DAZN if they can assure him that he is at least two fights away from a trilogy bout. You have to imagine that GGG wants the third fight next, but will be unlikely to swing it by May.

Anything can happen, but I would put a bout with Lemieux at 168-pounds as far more likely to happen than a third fight with Golovkin at this point. Then again, there is another fight that might even make more sense…

Daniel Jacobs

OK, if we can’t have the Golovkin bout, then the obvious choice for Canelo’s next opponent has to be Daniel Jacobs. There is no doubt that he is at least the third best middleweight on the planet behind both Alvarez and Golovkin. In fact, prior to Canelo drawing and subsequently beating GGG, Jacobs pushed him the closest he had ever been to losing a fight. As such, this would be a tough, tough test for the champ and that’s what we want to see as fight fans, right?

The fight would also be a commercial success. Jacobs, an American vs. the Mexican powerhouse. You could certainly argue that it would work pretty nicely on May 4. Another thing that would play well in this matchup is the fact that Jacobs is a champion, having won the IBF middleweight crown in October. The chance for Canelo to strap another belt around his waist would be appealing, surely.

As if the positives couldn’t get any more, erm, positive, British promoter Eddie Hearn – who also oversees the career of heavyweight superstar Anthony Joshua – is working with Jacobs. Hearn has good ties to DAZN and De La Hoya’s Golden Boy, which makes this as pretty smooth a deal as there is to make. Fans want it, Jacobs wants it, DAZN will surely want it, so we can only hope that Canelo and his team are as optimistic about making it happen.

If you watched Canelo’s bout with Fielding on December 3, you will have probably noticed Jacobs shaking hands with the Mexican after the fight. This is always a good sign that something is going down in boxing, so let’s hope that it is a good omen. Jacobs also told reporters that he is the ‘perfect candidate’ for Alvarez’s next opponent and wants to take him on around Cinco De Mayo in Las Vegas.

Anyone Else?

I would be lying to you if I were to say that there are two bigger fights for Canelo than Golovkin or Jacobs. You would be lying to yourself if you were to even entertain the idea that there are two better boxers out there to challenge the Irish-looking Mexican. As it stands, there are some pretty credible candidates that could excite fans, but with DAZN involved, the big names must be considered first.

Another thing that will influence Canelo’s next opponent will be the weight class at which he chooses to fight next. There is little doubt that the bulk of talent currently sits at 160-pounds, but a bout with Britain’s Calum Smith – brother of Alvarez’s former opponent, Liam – could be the pick of the bunch at super middleweight. This might be one for the future, however.

Back at middleweight, Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders would be a nice matchup for the heavy hitting champ. Saunders made Lemieux look like an amateur in their WBO clash in December 2017 and has an unbeaten record in the ring. Jermall Charlo is another potential opponent, but is unlikely to stir up the excitement just yet. Demetrius Andrade, another unbeaten prospect, is a fighter that some would like to see enter the ring with Canelo.

Final Thoughts

All in all, there are options here for Alvarez. When it comes down to it, he is the golden ticket in boxing right now and is aware of the steady line of pretenders for his crown. Fans want big fights and there will be a collective disappointment should the 28-year-old decide to pluck another Rocky from obscurity, a la Apollo Creed (or should that simply read Canelo Alvarez?).

The big fight for Canelo is a third bout with Golovkin. However, that does not seem to be in the interest of the majority for the time being. As boxing fans, we have to accept when there is a discrepancy between the business and idealistic sides of the coin and move on. As such, the next best bout is Daniel Jacobs. Can that happen on May 4? It might seem unlikely, but let’s hope it does. It will be an incredible bout and one that the fans deserve.

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